As we always talked about diversity and differences in Singapore, I found out a key difference between diversity and differences. Diversity is like the tip of the iceberg, it being safe to discuss, “politically correct” yet ignores the manifest of underlying differences of the rest of the iceberg below.
Indeed, Singapore is a country that embraces diversity. You’ll notice that advertisement and visuals are presented in the 4 main races – Chinese Malay Indian and Caucasian. Walk along the streets and be fascinated by the religious temples, along side each other. The ministers in the government also do have representations of the many races. Yet, how often do we discuss our differences?
It is “illegal” to be racist under the Sedition Act in Singapore. Despite Article 14(1)(a) that gives the Singapore citizens the freedom of speech and expression, Article 14(2)(a) allows the Parliament to impose restrictions that promotes ill-will or hostility between different races. As much as I appreciate these laws and act, to what extent do we define what is the promotion of ill-will and hostility? Because of the act, I do feel compelled to refrain myself from questioning more about another culture and tradition, in fear of being misunderstood and causing “hostility” between races/religion. As a result, I do feel that Singaporeans start to question less, and accept things on the face level.
I do not deny that Singapore has done an incredible job in maintaining peace and harmony between the many different people in the society. Yet, looking deeper, how often do we question our differences and embrace them? Differences is the bottom of the iceberg, a huge untapped area that has not been addressed. Yes, in an apartment building (HDB), you’ll see families of all races living under one roof. However, how much do you really know your neighbors? We are a diverse society on the surface, but deep down, are the differences being embraced as a result?
Diversity has a very positive/neutral connotation, that suggested inclusion and equality. Differences, on the other hand, starts off knowing that people are different, it talks about the exclusion of groups. Nonetheless, these identities are simply a construct of society. With an open-mind that is not quick to judge, we can become more accepting of everyone in the society, and embrace the real underlying differences than just the superficial cosmetic difference called “diversity”.